The Minnesota Vikings have had some poor injury luck as of late, but have won three straight NFC North matchups. Before the season even started, the Vikings lost Danielle Hunter to the IR with a “tweak” that turned out bad enough to hold him out of the entire 2020 season.
In the first few weeks of the season, Minnesota lost starting offensive lineman Pat Elflien, who was cut by the team before their game in Chicago. They also lost former pro-bowl linebacker Anthony Barr for the rest of the 2020 season to a torn pectoral in the team’s week two loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Just this week, the Vikings were without outside cornerback Cameron Dantzler who left Minnesota’s game in Green Bay two weeks ago and starting tight end Irv Smith jr, who had a groin injury.
Injuries like these always test a team, and they happen every NFL season. The Vikings have responded well and the backups have played extremely well, especially on Monday Night in Chicago.
Linebacker Eric Wilson, replacing Barr, recorded one sack, two tackles for loss, a pass defended, and seven total tackles against the Bears. Wilson has three and a half sacks this season, two fumble recoveries, three interceptions, and 61 total tackles. Those 61 tackles makes him the Vikings second leading tackler behind Eric Kendricks.
Defensive end has been more “by committee” than in years past. Not only is Minnesota without their star, and potentially best player on the roster, Danielle Hunter, but they lost both Everson Griffen and Stephen Weatherly to free agency. Rick Spielman’s blockbuster deal to bring in Yannick Ngakoue didn’t pan out on the field as Minnesota moved him to Baltimore for draft picks.
That the defensive end spot has been covered by Ifeadi Odenigbo, Hercules Mata’afa, Jalyn Holmes, and rookie D.J. Wonnum. Of those four, only Odenigbo had played significant time at defensive before this season with Wonnum being a rookie and Holmes and Mata’afa bouncing between positions.
Despite this lack of experience, this foursome combined for seven of the team’s eleven quarterback hits on Bears quarterback Nick Foles. They also helped force Foles into multiple bad throws and kept Chicago runners to just 41 total rushing yards.
The Vikings injury luck could be worse, they still have most of their starting offense intact and they’ve kept their signal caller, Kirk Cousins, relatively clean. Something that was a big question mark coming into the season.
However, the Vikings season could turn sour with more injuries to their defensive backfield. As of now, the team has been able to cover some of their inexperience and injuries at cornerback up with their great safety duo in Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith. If they lose anymore cornerbacks though, they’ll be scraping the bottom of the barrel for help.
It’s never a good sign if you have to bring in practice squad free agents to fill out your cornerback room, and that’s what Spielman might be doing if Minnesota loses a cornerback for an extended period.